It’s my one year HRT anniversary.

So firstly, I know that there’s been some pushback against the notion of celebrating one’s HRTversary, and I get it, but I don’t agree.

I like having a date to reflect on a year’s progress that isn’t tied up in all that attendant baggage of one’s birthday, and online I’d rather celebrate it ’cause I don’t like giving out my birthday online (real good way to get stalked – I don’t use my IRL chosen name or deadname online either, but there are some similarities and if people were attentive they could narrow down what city I’m in and then get more stalky from there.)

So with that out of the way, I’d like to talk about the whole thing, with some frankness.

Firstly: I am so much happier I can’t believe it.

I stopped taking my antidepressants, and I felt better. The mental health benefits for me have been outstanding. I’m more confident; I’m more content. I am less prone to anxiety spirals. If a problem arises, I can tell myself “I can handle this.” If someone’s a jerk to me, I finally am able to say “okay, I did not deserve that.”

For the mental benefits alone: 10/10, highly recommend, absolute life saving.

Now, the physical benefits, not so much.

I am in my forties; I know it’ll take just as much time to undo it as it took to do it the first time around and that this will be a lifelong process. I catch glimpses of me as a her in the mirror and it helps. I’ve gotten some positive changes; body hair is minimal, my hair is more lustrous, my hairline has stopped receding, and my sweat smells better. The ability to have an orgasm is lessened, but I’ve found that the joy has proportionately increased; I cherish it more, and I’ve simply learned to cherish emotional intimacy as much as the physical kind.

But I’ll be honest, they’re pretty minor at this point, which leads me to the bummer conclusion that presenting more femme will take a lot of extra work and I can’t count on it happening naturally. I’ll need scarves, and I’ll need sweaters, and I’ll need to color coordinate. I’ll need a wig, most likely. And I’ve ordered in some pronoun pins, to make sure.

The paradox of hormones is that they are, in fact, magical, but they’re not a panacea, and the phrase “hormones are magical” might trick one into believing that. But the truth is, every single inch of this takes an incredible amount of effort, and it still won’t be enough to prevent someone from clocking me. I have to accept that people will know that I’m transgender; that the fantasy of taking a pill and passing perfectly, while a wonderful fantasy, is a matter of pure luck. Some of us do; some of us don’t.

As for the cost of transition, Jesus Christ people were not kidding.

I’m more cash-strapped than I’ve ever been on electrolysis alone (I have a GoFundMe, please give if you can. ) It doesn’t help that my hours got cut, and in fact, may be cut even worse as of today, when I sent the company a letter explaining my situation. I cannot afford new clothes; if I go shopping for used clothes, I get to go through the humiliating process of shopping for clothes while not passing.

There is a cliche’ that white trans women are all rich, and in the aggregate, that’s – not true, but I know that we’re significantly better off than our transgender kin of color, particularly Black and Indigenous trans folks of color. But right now all it feels like is that I have a better seat on the same leaking boat. I feel guilty over being relatively better off and I feel rotten and like a failure for the fact that I’m still shitfuck poor. I took in less than 20K Canadian last year. The only reason I’m not homeless is because my father is still alive and needs someone to take care of him while that’s still true. I find myself going “what’s wrong with me? The internet tells me that people like me should be raking in six figures a year.”

This stuff costs. If you know a trans person, ask them how they’re doing financially.

Do I wish I’d started sooner? Yes. I wish I hadn’t had to start at all, that I’d been content with things all along. But barring that, the sooner I’d started, the further along I’d be; simple math.

But the darkly funny thing is this: the mental health benefits of being on HRT were not there before I started it. Before, I was too scared to tell anyone. I only even told my mother half an hour before she passed away. I was unable to support myself on my own; still can’t. I would catastrophize about every single thing, analyze every comment that they made, trying to suss out how they’d react.

But in the end, I was strong enough to do it, and now I wish I’d always been strong enough.

But that’s growth for you.

Anyways, you probably don’t need to hear this if you’re reading this, but people who make offhand jokes about us, roll their eyes about pronouns and such? They only think they don’t know anyone like us. The truth is, they do; and that person, upon hearing that, has quietly decided that the closet’s not so bad, let’s stay for a little while longer.

Jokes are the least of the offenses we have to weather; but they are still offenses, and the flip side of them being relatively inconsequential is that if they’re so inconsequential, it’s easy to stop making them.

Finally, the hard part for me is that my experiences aren’t going to be universal.

I have friends on HRT who are really struggling, and my heart goes out to them; this stuff so often feels like a complete crapshoot, trying various drugs and treatments in order to figure out what works best. The science around us has been set back so much by the fash, and it looks like they’re gearing up to attempt it again.

There are many things we don’t have in common. My experience on HRT isn’t someone else’s. Someone else may have better luck with laser removal than I will. Some people will not struggle with body hair, and others still will. Someone may not get the mental benefits I did, or they will but they’ll still need to supplement with therapy and brain pills (hooray, more money we get to spend.) In some ways I’m lucky; in other ways I’m not.

But the thing that we have in common is that we’re all trying to find happiness, because we’ve all realized that if we don’t try to do this, then all life will be is a thing we get through instead of something we enjoy. And everyone deserves a chance to be happy.

Anyways, that’s my first year on HRT. Thank you for reading.

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